Tag Archives: Justin Archer

Episode 41: The federal election and Jason Kenney’s Ontario whistle-stop tour

What is missing from the federal election debate, Premier Jason Kenney’s whistle-stop tour through Ontario, and the fall session of the Alberta Legislature are some of the hot topics Dave tackles with this week’s guest co-hosts – Natalie Pon and Justin Archer.

Natalie Pon is a chartered professional accountant and a conservative activist in Edmonton. Most recently she was on the interim board of the United Conservative Party.

Justin Archer is a partner at Berlin Communications in Edmonton and a professional communications strategist. Justin and Dave worked together in their first political jobs with the Alberta Liberal Party back in the mid-2000s.

Thanks to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, for helping us put the show together, and a huge thanks to the Alberta Podcast Network, powered by ATB, for supporting the show. The Alberta Podcast Network includes more than 30 great made-in-Alberta podcasts, including The Common Ground Podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Daveberta Podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We always love to feedback from our listeners, so let us know what you think of this episode and leave a review where you download.

Send us your feedback, or ask us any questions you have for our next episode. You can get us on TwitterInstagram, the Daveberta Facebook page, or you can email us at podcast@daveberta.ca.

We will be back again in two weeks! Enjoy!

Recommended reading/listening/upcoming events:

raj sherman sweeps alberta liberal leadership poll.

Alberta Liberal Party Leadership Vote Poll 2011 Raj Sherman Hugh MacDonald Laurie Blakeman Bill Harvey Bruce Payne

Readers voted in this poll between September 6 and 9.

When asked who will win the Alberta Liberal Party leadership vote on September 10, readers of this blog overwhelmingly chose former Tory MLA Raj Sherman.

Four-term Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald placed a distant second and Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman and conservative Calgarian Bill Harvey placed a close third and fourth in this online poll. Calgarian Bruce Payne barely registered on the online poll.

Although the contest has drawn the interest of 27,000 supporters, accusations of irregularities in the voters list by Mr. MacDonald have dominated the media coverage of the contest.  Yesterday, Mr. Harvey claimed that the party office had added dozens (and maybe hundreds) of last minute names to the voters list and had not yet provided his campaign with the full list. The names of these supporters were collected by former Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Bharat Agnihotri, who is supporting Dr. Sherman’s candidacy.

For more on the Liberal leadership contest, read Justin Archer‘s guest post, Decision Time for Alberta Liberals.

guest post: decision time for the alberta liberals.

 

Alberta Liberal Party Leadership Candidates

Alberta Liberal Party leadership candidates (left to right) Bill Harvey, Bruce Payne, Raj Sherman, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald

By Justin Archer

On Saturday September 10, the Alberta Liberals will select their next leader following current leader David Swann’s resignation from the post, announced this past January.

An understanding of the dynamics that lead to the initiation of this leadership race is helpful in interpreting the parry and thrust that has played out among the candidates running to be Swann’s successor. It’s probably not quite accurate to say that Swann was forced out—he left of his own volition, but he certainly didn’t have an easy time of it throughout most of his tenure as leader. Job one for the new leader will be to unite the caucus and inspire the membership as Alberta moves ever closer to the next election.

Don Braid’s piece in the Calgary Herald last weekend was a bang-on analysis of the recent and not so recent dynamic within the Party.

I found this section particularly apropos:

“There was another flicker of losing mentality recently when MLAs and leadership candidates suddenly discovered the party has 25,000 members.

The reaction was not joy, or even a touch of pride, but claims of duplicity from candidates who thought Raj Sherman was pushing the rules.”

It has been written elsewhere that this election will be a defining moment in the history of the Party, and I don’t disagree. When Daveberta left the ALP a few years ago he explained to me how his decision was motivated by the Party’s culture that put fealty to the Liberal brand above all else. At the time I didn’t know what he meant. Perhaps I hadn’t spent enough time in the trenches to see it up close. Now, a few years later, I see that Dave was absolutely right: there are elements within the Liberal Party that would take “being a Liberal” over “being in a progressive government that shares my values and does things the way I think it ought to” ten times out of ten. It’s weird, and kind of hard to explain until you’ve seen it. But it’s there.

This leadership election is an opportunity for the Liberal Party to decide what it wants to be: a band of true believers who will always be safe in the knowledge that they remained loyal to the Liberal brand through thick and thin; or a pragmatic, progressive group of people who are willing to stretch their boundaries and open up the organization to new people, new thinking, and ultimately a shot at real relevance again.

The various potential paths for the Liberal Party have been foreshadowed during this leadership campaign. I’ve been to a few of the debates and watched the campaign closely. By my best estimation, the candidates have offered visions as such:

Laurie Blakeman: Solid traditional Liberal credentials as well as an eye towards pragmatism. A Laurie Blakeman Liberal Party would not close itself off to outsiders, and would likely make some attempt to establish consensus with the Alberta Party and the NDP.

Bill Harvey: Move the Party far to the right of its traditional space on the political spectrum, to the point where many members would no longer feel comfortable with policy positions. Harvey has a very small natural constituency within the Party. If he were to win it would be in large part due to his organizational skills.

Hugh MacDonald: A die-hard Liberal if ever there was one. MacDonald has staked out the traditional Liberal territory with a vengeance during this campaign. He is an unapologetic devotee of the brand, and has played up his Party renewal strategy of empowering constituency associations.

Bruce Payne: A kind and decent human being who doesn’t quite have the backstory that explains why he should be the Liberal Leader. If he can hold Calgary-Varsity when incumbent Harry Chase retires at the start of the next election he would make a strong Alberta Liberal MLA.

Raj Sherman: His policy strength is in health care, but he speaks frequently about the social determinants of health and the correlative relationship between government actions and social outcomes across many policy areas. Sherman’s participation is the story of this campaign. He brings strong name recognition and folk hero status to this race. However his history as a Conservative MLA makes him an unknown and perhaps unsettling quantity in some Liberal circles.

I could certainly be wrong, and in fact I usually am (just ask Premier Jim Dinning and LPC Leader Gerard Kennedy), but I think this race is essentially between Hugh MacDonald and Raj Sherman.

MacDonald represents the true believers; the ones with a Liberal tattoo. Those people who look at traditional Liberal policies like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, multiculturalism, the right to marry who you love, environmentalism, non-violence, fiscal responsibility, and at a host of other Liberal policy positions and say “yes, I am a Liberal.” MacDonald’s supporters come from the noblest of places within the human spirit. They see a set of values that they call “Liberal”, and they won’t be pushed off that brand come hell or high water. However, the dedication to Liberalism exemplified by MacDonald supporters is myopic: though they have the best outcomes in mind, their inflexibility and inability to understand the bigger picture have trapped them in a perpetual state of being “right”, while being marginalized. And what’s the good in that?

On the other hand, Raj Sherman brings a whole new dynamic to the Liberal Party. He’s famous. He’s smart. He’s brash. He stood up to the government and lived to tell the tale. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Raj this summer and I can attest to the fact that he is an incredibly hard worker and the most pure retail politician I’ve ever seen. He is totally comfortable in his own skin and loves being with people. During the leadership race Sherman has signed up a large number of new Party supporters, giving the ALP a big new list of people to build its constituency and campaign teams with for the next election.

Over the past several years the Liberal Party has been pulling in two different directions. On the one hand there are the traditional loyalists who think the Party must do the same things, but better. On the other hand there are the younger, more pragmatic activists who wish to reshape the Party in a way that will allow it to continue to be relevant in the 21st Century. MacDonald and Sherman are two nearly perfect proxy candidates for this debate.

When the Party selects a new Leader on September 10, a Raj Sherman victory will indicate a willingness to work outside the Party’s traditional comfort zone with the aim of greater electoral success, while maintaining its commitment to Liberal values and philosophy; a Hugh MacDonald victory will represent a decision to redouble efforts to build the traditional Liberal Party along the same lines that have failed for so long.

This is an important conversation for the Party to have, and I’m genuinely interested in seeing which way the Party decides to go. If nothing else, the Liberal Party leadership contest has been passionate, surprising and interesting. The Party feels exciting again, which is a step in the right direction.

—-
Justin Archer is an Edmonton-based public relations consultant and political watcher. www.archerstrategies.com.

twitter is not question period.

I had an interesting exchange on Twitter this afternoon with Brian Mason, leader of Alberta’s NDP and MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood. After discovering his new blog this weekend, I posted a link on Twitter and noted the irony in Mr. Mason’s new social media presence following criticisms he made about the Alberta Party‘s focus on social media (it also seems silly to me that the leader of the fourth largest party would spend time criticizing the fifth largest party).

My tweet was only intended as a passing comment and in hindsight I should have known that it might be interpreted differently. Here is a thread of the main conversation (see here for more):

@davcournoyer: After criticizing the @AlbertaParty for focusing on social media, NDP leader Brian Mason has started a blog: http://is.gd/LQgPdv #ableg

@bmasonndp: @davecournoyer @AlbertaParty Didn’t say that, as you well know. #ABLEG

@davecournoyer: @bmasonNDP I’m glad that you are joining the broader conversation, but you can’t deny your previous comments about social media. #ableg

@davecournoyer: @bmasonNDP “The Alberta Party is selling snake oil via social media,” #ableg

@davecournoyer: @bmasonNDP “Some of them think they can Tweet their way into power.” #ableg

@davecournoyer: @bmasonNDP Your past comments aside, I’m glad that you’re starting the blog and look forward to some interesting “insider” posts. #ableg

@bmasonndp: @davecournoyer Let’s be clear: comments were about the AB Party & its use of SM, NOT about the utility of SM itself. #ABLEG

@bmasonndp: @davecournoyer Dave, if you delivered your message via pony express, it would still be snake oil.

@davecournoyer: @bmasonNDP I’m not sure you can tweet your way out of this one. Previous comments were cheap shot soundbites, at least admit that. #ableg

@bmasonndp: @davecournoyer One party’s “cheap shot” is another party’s “clever one-liner” Dave. Point is, they were shots at AB party, not at SM. #ableg

@djkelly: @bmasonNDP How does berating @davecournoyer via twitter earn you votes? I voted NDP last time. Seriously rethinking now.

@denny1h: @djkelly so when @davecournoyer or anyone makes false or misleading statements in a public forum @bmasonndp should ignore them?

@djkelly: @denny1h Heck no. He should politely refute him. Why stoop?@davecournoyer @bmasonndp

@davecournoyer: @djkelly @denny1h I don’t take offence from @bmasonndp‘s response. For politicians used to QP, it might take a bit to get used to Twitter.

@djkelly: @davecournoyer Yes, twitter is not QP. It’s more like a town hall. Have to behave differently in the two. Ditto here. @denny1h @bmasonndp

In 2009, Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain gave one the  best descriptions of Twitter that I have read: “The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful.” So true.

Although the NDP Caucus have been using social media as part of their communications for a few years now, Twitter is a different medium than most politicians are accustomed to.

While many Alberta Party supporters have become passionate Tweeters, for many of them it is the time they have been involved in a political party and some of them easily take offence to such criticisms. They should not. They should learn from them and move on.

As @DJKelly mentioned in his tweet, Twitter is more like a Town Hall. The interaction on Twitter are less useful when focused on partisan and soundbite-filled confrontation encouraged in traditional political institutions like Question Period, and more useful when focused on actual collaboration and discussion. In my mind, this is one of the qualities that makes social media much more engaging and useful than some of our traditional political institutions.

It has been my experience that in order to fully understand Twitter, it is best to use it for a while. @Nenshi@DonIveson@MinisterJono, and @GriffMLA are four good examples of elected officials in our province who have demonstrated that they understand how to use the medium.

At the first Changecamp Edmonton event in October 2009, the question was asked: How do we re-imagine government and citizenship in the age of participation? At the time, Justin Archer wrote a great column about why this question is critically important and why it is important to re-think our government systems in order to ensure that they are still relevant for us.

Many of the discussions that I had with participants at Changecamp Edmonton and the many friendships that I developed at of that event helped reshape how I view politics and political engagement today. This includes how social media can be used to engage with our elected officials and government leaders.

Today’s exchange may not be exactly what I had in mind when I think of the ideas discussed at Changecamp, but it did teach me a lesson about how to engage with elected officials new to social media. I hope that even after his 22 years in politics, that Mr. Mason will learn and grow from his social media experiences as well.

guest post: the berry patch perspective on the alberta party.

By William Munsey

I was reading a blog the other day by a young guy named Justin who just couldn’t see the Alberta Party as something worth supporting… was holding onto the idea that the Alberta Liberal Party is the natural home to the progressive vote in Alberta.  He described himself as “the kind of person you’d expect to be in the Alberta Party.”  He continued on to describe himself as a young person who lives in a downtown condo with a job in the ‘creative economy’ and a strong supporter of human rights and a proponent of a mostly free market economy.

Young Justin’s blog was pretty good, but I think he’s missing a couple of things.

See, I don’t live in a downtown condo.  I’m not young and my grey hairs far outnumber my brown ones.  I don’t have a cool job in the “creative economy” nor am I ever likely to.  I live in a drafty old farmhouse.  We grow flowers and saskatoon berries, which bring in little money but require lots of physical work.  I spend most of my days in dirty coveralls.  We don’t have extra money to go to the theatre or take vacations.  In fact the only theatre I get to attend offers two girls fighting over one bathroom in the morning.

I can’t afford either the time or money to sit in Starbucks.  I make my coffee at home and carry it to work in a thermos and look for abandoned newspapers to catch up on the day’s happenings.  I have to budget just to buy new socks and long underwear for the coming cold.  The other night, while most people were snug in bed, I was working the job that supports my farm…. lying in the snow, between the rails, under a freight train, strapping up dragging equipment. Two days ago I was up to my elbows butchering a deer that will help keep us through the winter.

If Justin’s analysis was correct, I’m hardly the sort of guy you would expect to have any interest in the Alberta Party.  My world is so distant from the condo dwelling urbanites Justin describes as likely candidates to support the Alberta Party, I sometimes think there’s a time warp between us and I suspect if Justin met me… filthy from head to toe, deer blood on my coat, he might dismiss me completely for someone so foreign to his values we couldn’t even communicate.

But Justin (and a ton of other urban progressives) would be surprised by what we rural rubes know about our province… and for the worry we are saddled with for the future and for what is happening to this province.  Dismissing the Alberta Party as a party for urban Albertans is a mistake. It’s a mistake Liberal Party of Alberta and the New Democrats traditionally make (even though they say they don’t). The truth is, there is as much dissatisfaction in rural Alberta these days as there is anywhere else in this province and considerably more common ground than people like Justin can imagine.

My rural neighbours may never think of themselves as progressives.  In fact, I would say that a majority of rural Albertans strongly self-identify as small ‘c’ conservatives. We might never see ourselves as strong supporters of human rights, but you will never get a fairer shake than in the hundreds of little communities dotted around this province.  We might not be able to tell the difference between modern Twitter and a old-fashioned twit, but we know first-hand the tenuous nature of landowners’ rights in this province.  We may eat wild meat occasionally, but we also understand the vital importance of fresh water, the value of healthy food, the nature of true conservation and the value of our natural heritage.  And more, I suspect, than urban Albertans we can see by the crumbling infrastructure in our small towns that life in rural Alberta is not thriving.

Rural Albertans are looking for a change in government.  To date, the only party who seem to be courting us is the Wildrose Alliance.  I’ve been to their meetings and almost without exception I am the youngest person in the room (at 49).  I have heard the cozy words about “taking back the province” and “bringing accountability back to government.”  Yet there is something stale in the Wildrose Alliance.  They just don’t strike me as an option for a better future for this province… and their cozy relationship with the petrochemical industry frightens me.

So what do we have?  The PCs?  Nope… unless they bring back Peter Lougheed and his band of young thinkers.  The WRA?  Not unless I see some distance from the monied old interests and a lot more youth at local gatherings.  The Liberals?  You’re kidding right?  I want a chance to be on the winning side of an election and the ALP hasn’t had a chance in nearly a hundred years.  The NDP?  (see Liberal… only way more so).

People talk about a party that can capture the imagination of Albertans.  That’s the problem.  Albertans’ imagination and dreams were captured 40 years ago… and they are still being held captive.  I’m looking for a party that sets those dreams and aspirations free again… a party that encourages dreaming and imagination… that will reward and support new ideas that diversify our economy without devaluing our environment… or dismissing elements of our society.  What I am looking for is a party that takes good ideas from wherever they come… the left… the right… the centre… the north… the south… wherever.  I’m looking for a party that offers Albertans the chance to dream again.

I want to counter the perception that the Alberta Party is for young, progressive urbanites only.  What attracted me was the coming together of people from diverse backgrounds.  We may not always speak the same language.  We may not always see the world in the same light.  We may sometimes differ about the best options for Alberta.  That’s all ahead for us.  However, it is the spirit of working together, being respectful of good ideas wherever they come from… and above all the chance to build an Alberta we can be proud of again.

I’d like to tell young Justin, “we can all meet in the Alberta Party.”  If he brings the latte… I’ll bring the jerky and saskatoon wine.

—-

This post can also be read on William Munsey’s blog, The Berry Patch Perspective.

guest post: a liberal party perspective on the alberta party.

By: Justin Archer

Dave Cournoyer and I have known each other since 2005, when I got my first real job working in a junior staff position with the Alberta Liberals. Dave started working there shortly after I did, and the two of us became friends. He’s mentioned to me before that I could do a guest post at some point if there is a topic that seems to fit, but I’ve never asked to take him up on that offer until now.

Let me just explain first that I am the kind of person you’d probably expect to be in the Alberta Party. I live in a condo downtown and have a pretty good job in what is thought of as the “creative economy”. I’m politically active. I still like to think I’m young (though I did find my first grey hair the other day, which needless to say was traumatic.) I am a strong supporter of human rights, and a proponent of mostly free markets with some government intervention in the economy to protect the common good. I also know quite a few people involved in the Alberta Party, and I like them and respect them. I agree with them in a broad sense on how this province should be governed, because their values are my values.

I think they might be making a Big Mistake though, and that’s what I want to talk about here.

The first part of my argument is that there are a couple of no-such-things:
1. There is no such thing as a post-partisan political party.
2. There is no such thing as a political party that falls outside of the traditional left/right spectrum.

No-such-thing 1 is essentially self-evident. The word partisan basically means “someone who supports a cause and works to achieve some end associated with that cause” . If an organization is trying to get people elected and maybe even form a government, it’s a partisan group. It’s not even really open to interpretation, that’s just what “partisan” means. It has been suggested to me that perhaps the Alberta Party intends to introduce a less partisan style of politics to the debate. I don’t really understand what this means, but if it means something along the lines of “no talking bad about the other guys”, I would be shocked if that sentiment sticks around the nascent organization for long, if it is even there now. Which it probably isn’t. No-such-thing 2 is also quite simple: When you get down to it, what a government does is take in the money and then figure out how to spend it. If you look at how each government philosophically approaches this job, you can figure out where it sits on the spectrum.

It’s like this: Some people think that the government should take in lots of the money and make sure that everyone gets a nice amount. Those people often think that the government should be involved in lots of things and intervene in many economic transactions. Those people are on the left.

There are other people who think that the government should take in some of the money, and make sure that everyone gets at least a least a little bit. These people also usually think that the government should allow economic activity to take place free of government interference except where there is a real problem that needs fixing. Those people are in the centre.

Then there are people who think that the government should take in only a little bit of the money, and it’s up to individuals to get things for themselves. These people also usually think that the government should keep its damn nose out of pretty much everything (unless their rich friends are in trouble, in which case those rules no longer apply). These people are on the right.

I’ve heard it said by people in the Alberta Party that this party is not possible to pin down on the spectrum I’ve described above. It would be fun and exciting to think this, but it would be wrong. I haven’t seen the policy that the Alberta Party passed at its recent convention, but I would very surprised if an analysis of that policy wouldn’t reveal that the party is in the centre. In fact I’d almost guarantee it. I think if you follow Alberta politics closely and you know the people in that party and the sorts of things that those people tend to think, you’d have to agree with me.

So if the Alberta Party is in the centre, and it is partisan, it is basically the Alberta Liberal Party only cooler and better looking. What I mean is that the values are very similar, the policies are likely quite similar, but it’s a newer and more exciting organization. It has an ambitious and fun culture, lots of wonderful and smart people, and a great attitude about how to engage people in the political process. It has also embarked on a great citizen engagement process and done a great job of getting ink for its work. But the actual values, the guts of the party, are not very different from those of the Liberals.

I also think that the Alberta Party will take many votes from the Liberals. I do not buy the argument that the 60% of people who didn’t vote last time will be the deciders in the next election. I think that for the most part, people who didn’t vote last time won’t vote next time. From the inside of a political party it is easy to start to believe that there is something big happening out there, and people are getting turned on. Largely though, political activity in Alberta takes place outside of the notice of the majority of the population and people who don’t follow politics are not getting turned on. In my view the pool of votes might be a little bigger next time, but not much.

Now this is the part where it’s easy to say, “sure, well if the Liberals are so great, why aren’t all these engaged young difference makers joining up with them?” The truth is that the Liberals haven’t done a good job of answering that question. But I actually don’t know that it’s the right question to be asking.

You see, I think that we are on the cusp of one of those generational shifts in Alberta politics where a new government will come to power. If you are reading this blog you don’t need a primer in Alberta politics – we can all agree that historically there has been a one-party culture here, and when a change in government comes, it is fast and total. Many people, and particularly many rural constituencies, want to be on the side of the winning team, so support tends to move quickly to the party who looks like it may form government. I think that because of this, in the next election, small “c” conservative support will begin to drift from the PC Party to the Wildrose Alliance Party. In the election after that, that conservative support will firmly coalesce around the Wildrose Alliance Party, and that party could easily form a government at that time.

There is a strong parallel to federal politics here. Let’s be honest, the Chretien/Martin government years were made possible in large part by the split in the conservative family over much of that time period. Now that the federal conservatives are re-united under one banner, it’s not so easy for those in the centre to form a government, as we’ve continually seen. I think that this is probably one of the only times where we’ll have a similar political situation here provincially, and as moderates in this province it looks like we’re about to waste it by grouping in factions instead of realizing that we all pretty much agree on things. If centrist political organizers and voters are divided during the next five or six years between the Alberta Party, the Progressive Conservative Party and the Alberta Liberal Party, the moderates in this province will probably lose the opportunity to form a government for the next generation.

In summary my argument is this: We’re about to miss an opportunity while the conservative house is divided because of things like process and personality. I believe that process and personality are important in politics, but when you peel it all back, the values underneath are what really matter. And in the absence of a divergence on values, is it not foolish to have competing organizations?

I don’t know how to solve this. I’m not saying the Alberta Party should stop doing what they’re doing. I’m not saying the Liberals should fold up the tent. But I do think this is a real discussion that needs to take place on this side of the coming electoral opportunity, rather than a lament on the other side of it.

Anyway, thanks to Dave for letting me air this here. Please chime in in the comments.

——–

Justin Archer is a young guy in Edmonton who is involved in this and that around town. He grew up in Calgary but moved here about five years ago to take his first big kid job as a Liberal staffer. After a 2008 election night filled with tears and despair (but I thought we were gonna be the governm…….*sob* *sniffle*), he went to work for a Edmonton-based PR firm, where he is now a consultant. He believes that Alberta is a great place and most of the whole redneck thing is exaggerated. Follow him on Twitter @justin_archer.

Read other guest posts to this blog.